Statement of Catholic Citizens of Illinois on SB#1564, Health Care Right of Conscience Act

From the Board of Directors of Catholic Citizens of Illinois

In an act of insufferable arrogance, the Illinois Senate has passed SB#1564.  The bill purports to require all “medical personnel” who don’t provide abortion “services” to refer their patients to someone who does.  The bill continues to undergo amendments.

But amendments can’t cure the problem. The bill is intended to require Catholic “medical personnel” to act against their religious convictions, and thus an inexcusable and unacceptable attempt to coerce consciences.

Catholics do not derive our consciences from the Illinois General Assembly.  Freedom of Religion, the first freedom enshrined in the First Amendment, and in the Illinois Constitution, prohibits the government from violating our unalienable right not to be coerced in matters of faith. The right to freedom of religion is a human right, conferred on us by our Creator, and not by the Federal Government, the State of Illinois or even by our religious authorities.

Some state that they are “neutral” towards the bill.  But for Catholics, “neutrality” in the face of an intrinsic evil is never an option.  Just one year after the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1974, the Vatican issued the Declaration on Procured Abortion which described “abortion and infanticide as abominable crimes.”  Pope Paul VI, speaking on many occasions declared this teaching “unchanged and unchangeable.”

More recently, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reaffirmed long standing Catholic theology which denounces abortion as “intrinsically evil” and therefore “non-negotiable.”

And in Evangelli Gaudium, his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, citing Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis stated that:

“[T]his defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”[1]

Specifically applied to the field of health care, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, our Catholic Bishops teach that:

1.Catholic care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and direct sterilization.

2. The possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principals governing cooperation.[2] Cooperation which in all other respects is morally licit may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused.[3]

Given these long-settled Catholic precepts, how could any Catholic, in good conscience, comply with a law that our faith and our leadership teaches is immoral?

The answer is obvious: those advocating for this legislation know that we cannot.

[1] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 37: AAS 81 (1989), 461, at

[2] See: Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil (no. 2284): “Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads other to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged.” (no. 2287).

[3] Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fifth Edition.


Morals in medicine

 Senate passes “right of conscience” bill after harrowing testimony

Illinois Times

Patrick Yeagle

Mindy Swank of Chicago grew up in a conservative household – both religiously and politically – so when her pregnancy went wrong, it was a difficult decision to have an abortion.

She and her husband, Adam, were excited to have their second child, she told an Illinois Senate legislative panel at the Capitol in March, but their doctors informed them the child likely wouldn’t survive. Having the child, they were told, could hurt Mindy’s ability to have future children and possibly endanger her life. Instead of receiving the abortion, however, Mindy endured a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage.

Mindy told her story to the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17, testifying about a bill that could have prevented her ordeal. The bill passed the full Senate on April 23 and awaits a vote in the House. . . [Full text]

Dutch court allows family to euthanize incapacitated 80-year-old woman against doctor’s protest

LifeSite News

Jeanne Smits

An 80 year-old woman in the Netherlands was euthanized last week after her family obtained a court order obliging the care facility for the elderly where she was living to let her leave in order to fulfill her “death wish.” The woman was incapable of expressing her will. She was legally killed one day after having left the Clinic “Ter Reede” in Flushing. The management, medical staff, and the woman’s general practitioner were all opposed to the euthanasia. . . [Full text]



Don’t expect law on doctor-assisted suicide before election, MacKay says

Globe and Mail

Mike Blanchfield and Joan Bryden

OTTAWA — The Canadian Press

The federal government will not introduce new legislation to govern doctor-assisted dying before the expected October federal election, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Monday.

Rather, said Mr. MacKay, the government will soon reveal details of its long-promised public consultations on the emotionally charged issue, noting that Justice department officials are working behind the scenes to frame the discussion.

“The process will be announced in terms of the consultation,” Mr. MacKay told The Canadian Press in an interview Monday. . . [Full text]


Over 75? Sign here if you’re ready for death: GPs to ask ALL older patients if they’ll agree to a ‘do not resuscitate’ order

New NHS guidelines urge GPs to draw up end-of-life plans for over 75s

Daily Mail

Sophie Borland

Doctors are being told to ask all patients over 75 if they will agree to a ‘do not resuscitate’ order.

New NHS guidelines urge GPs to draw up end-of-life plans for over-75s, as well as younger patients suffering from cancer, dementia, heart disease or serious lung conditions.

They are also being told to ask whether the patient wants doctors to try to resuscitate them if their health suddenly deteriorates.

The NHS says the guidance will improve patients’ end-of-life care, but medical professionals say it is ‘blatantly wrong’ and will frighten the elderly into thinking they are being ‘written off’.

In some surgeries, nurses are cold-calling patients over 75 or with long-term conditions and asking them over the phone if they have ‘thought about resuscitation’. . . [Full text]


Illinois Senate approves health-care conscience update

Chicago Business

(AP) — A measure requiring physicians to spell out a patient’s options even if they’re objectionable to the doctor has received Senate approval.

The 34-19 vote sends to the House the plan by Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss. It would change a 1977 law that allows health care providers to refuse to perform medical procedures they find morally objectionable. . . [Full Text]


Colombian Physicians Get the Final Go-Ahead for Euthanasia

18 Years of Legal Limbo Over with New Regulatory Protocol

Pan Am Post

Sabrina Martín

An 18-year wait came to an end on Monday, April 20, when Health Ministry authorities presented guidelines for Colombian doctors to perform euthanasia. The Constitutional Court ordered them to set the protocols in a February decision, after declaring the practice legal all the way back in 1997.

Medical practitioners in the Andean country have routinely refused to support assisted suicide, fearing criminal charges. Even with the court judgment standing, there was simply no regulatory environment. . . the Health Promotion Agency (EPS) is tasked with finding an alternative doctor or health center if the patient’s usual provider refuses to help him die. [Full text]

Your morality, my mortality: conscientious objection and the standard of care

Ben A. Rich


Recently the scope of protections afforded those healthcare professionals and institutions that refuse to provide certain interventions on the grounds of conscience have expanded, in some instances insulating providers (institutional and individual) from any liability or sanction for harms that patients experience as a result. With the exponential increase in the penetration of Catholic-affiliated healthcare across the country, physicians and nurses who are not practicing Catholics are nevertheless required to execute documents pledging to conform their patient care to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services as a condition of employment or medical staff privileges. In some instances, doing so may result in patient morbidity or mortality or violate professional standards for respecting advance directives or surrogate decisionmaking. This article challenges the ethical propriety of such institutional mandates and argues that legal protections for conscientious refusal must provide redress for patients who are harmed by care that falls below the prevailing clinical standards.

RICH, B. (2015). Your Morality, My Mortality: Conscientious Objection and the Standard of Care. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 24(2), 214-230. doi:10.1017/S0963180114000528

Bill would make Catholic hospitals tell patients about options elsewhere

Chicago Tribune

Manya Brachear Pashman

Angela Valavanis, shown with her children Ariana, 5, left, and Dylan, 23 months, and husband Stel, learned minutes before Dylan’s delivery that her hospital would not be able to provide the tubal ligation she had requested months earlier in the event of a cesarean section because the procedure would violate Catholic teachings.

A measure before Illinois lawmakers would require Roman Catholic hospitals to tell patients they can go elsewhere for birth control, certain medical procedures and other health care choices that violate church teachings.

The proposal would amend the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which generally allows workers and institutions to deny services for religious and ethical reasons. And while it would apply to all hospitals in Illinois, it’s particularly relevant for Catholic hospitals, which handle more than 1 in 4 admissions statewide. . . [Full text]

Conscience and Community: Understanding the Freedom of Religion

Responding to Protections and Applications of the First Amendment Today

Georgetown University,
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs
Reproduced with permission

Richard Garnett*

“Religion,” said Justice William Douglas in his Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) opinion, is “an individual experience.” The opinion was a partial dissent, and this statement is partially correct. But, it does not tell the entire story.  Many “religious experiences” are those of monks, mystics, and prophets – and of salesmen, coaches, teachers, and cops. But, many are also of peoples and tribes and congregations. As Justice Douglas’s colleague, Justice William Brennan, insisted in Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos (1987), “[f]or many individuals, religious activity derives meaning in large measure from participation in a larger religious community. Such a community represents an ongoing tradition of shared beliefs, an organic entity not reducible to a mere aggregation of individuals.” [Full Text]